Photo Credit: Christophe Fotozz

With the OFC Men’s Champions League 2024 taking place on home soil, Tahiti representatives AS Pirae will be in sharp focus when the tournament kicks off this week in Papeete.

The titans of Tahiti, AS Pirae will be making their sixth OFC Men’s Champions League appearance. In that time, they’ve reached the finals and semi-finals, while also competing int he FIFA Club World Cup™ in 2021, losing in the opening round to hosts Al Jazira.

AS Pirae’s road to the Champions League was by no means easy, overcoming rivals AS Tefana in a dramatic two-leg National Playoff. Following a 1-1 draw in the opening leg, the two sides couldn’t be separated after 90 minutes in the second. Tefana broke the deadlock midway through extra time, but a free kick in the dying minutes of the match gave Pirae a lifeline.

In a tight penalty shootout, keeper Francois Decoret proved the hero for AS Pirae, making two saves, before Nick Tauotaha converted from the spot to seal a 6-5 victory on penalties for his side and a place in the Champions League.

There’ll be no special preparations for the tournament’s hosts, who will be using the Ligue 1 Vini Playoff matches to prepare them for their campaign. AS Pirae is currently in red-hot form, having won all seven of their matches to sit top of the domestic standings and are just three games away from being crowned champions of Tahiti for a 12th time.

Experienced Head Coach Vatea Terai will be hoping his side can continue that momentum into OFC’s premier club competition. His team will have the added benefit of playing in front of their home fans, which history suggests can be a telling factor. Three times Tahitian sides have made it to the final and on each occasion they’ve come up short – AS Pirae will be hoping to buck that trend and make history.

“We’re going to do everything we can to do our best in this tournament. We’re going to aim for the final, and then we’re counting on the Tahitian public to help us win the title,” said Terai.

To do that AS Pirae will need to advance from a challenging Group B, that features last years semi-finalists Ifira Black Bird FC (Vanuatu), who lost on penalties against eventual champions Auckland City in 2023, AS Magenta of New Caledonia and debutants Vaivase-tai FC from Samoa.

“The players know them because they met them last year, and we know the style of play of these countries too, so we’re going to prepare as well as we can to represent the Polynesians with dignity,” added Terai.

Player to Watch

The side boasts two of the most experienced players in Oceania, with captain Alvin Tehau and Heimano Bourebare having played at numerous OFC Men’s Champions League tournaments, as well as the FIFA Club World Cup™ in 2021.

Bourebare also brings a wealth of experience from the international stage, having played for Tahiti in their FIFA Confederations Cup™ campaign in 2013.